Sports News | Van der Burgh storms to breaststroke gold in China

Cape Town – South African star Cameron van der Burgh has stunned the field in claiming gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke at the 14th FINA World Swimming short course Championship in Hangzhou, China on Wednesday.

Van der Burgh, swimming out of Lane 7, finished in a time of 56.01 to take victory ahead of Belarus’ Ilya Shymanovich (56.10) and Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki (56.13).

Van der Burgh’s time was a new Championship record, breaking the 56.29 mark set by Brazil’s Felipe França da Silva in Doha in 2014.

The victory was something of a surprise given that Van der Burgh was only ninth-fastest in the heats and sixth-quickest in the semi-finals.

Van der Burgh still holds the world record in the event (55.61), which he posted in Berlin a full nine years ago.

Van der Burgh, now 30, recently got married and relocated to London.

South African team in Hangzhou:


Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh, Brad Tandy, Ryan Coetzee, Ayrton Sweeney, Douglas Erasmus


Erin Gallagher, Emily Visagie, Rebecca Meder | SA may expose raw Pakistan batting

Cape Town – Nine Test appearances between all of them in South Africa … and just one century to show on our soil.

That is the less than ideal track record the touring Pakistan squad bring with them for the three-match series against the Proteas, starting at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on Boxing Day.

Three players sport a trio of caps each in South Africa: captain and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, as well as more specialist batsmen Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq.

All were part of the similar, three-Test 2012/13 series when these foes last met on our shores, and the hosts romped to a 3-0 series sweep by fairly emphatic margins each time.

The Pakistani class of 2018/19 had better hope that natural talent – usually not something that country lacks – comes strongly to the fore in the latest bilateral series, bearing in mind that the side who visited six years ago struggled to be competitive even with an array of seasoned figures in their batting ranks, in particular.

That outfit was led by Misbah-ul-Haq, who later retired from Tests aged 43 in 2017, and included other gnarly figures at the crease like Younis Khan, Pakistan’s all-time leading runs-scorer with 10,099 at 52.05, and Mohammad Hafeez.

But they were well beaten anyway, and it must be a slightly scary thought to their supporters that the 2018/19 party is precariously short of know-how when it comes to South Africa’s conditions in the five-day format.

Both Ali (sixth) and Shafiq (ninth) are among the top ten for historical weight of Test runs by Pakistanis, and reassuring presences on this tour just for that reason.

But that hardly makes them masters of SA surfaces, either: Shafiq boasts the only century of the present squad here, the 111 he notched at Newlands in the second Test on the last visit, while Ali’s best South African effort is 65 at the same venue during that clash.

All of the other frontline Pakistani batsmen in action over the next few weeks will be tasting Test activity here for the first time, although opener Shan Masood did make 75 on debut against the very Proteas when they played a series in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 (Abu Dhabi).

Undoubtedly the main topic of conversation when it comes to their attack will be the presence of in-form leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who hit the headlines a few days ago by becoming the fastest bowler of all time to reach 200 Test scalps.

He did it during the just-completed “home” series (in the UAE) against New Zealand, despite the Black Caps registering an upset 2-1 triumph.

Shah achieved the distinction in his 33rd Test, beating the 36 required by previous, long-time record-holder Clarrie Grimmett of Australia, another leg-break specialist who had earned the landmark against South Africa in Johannesburg back in 1936.

But for all his obvious prowess and the clear threat he will pose to the Proteas if there is even a hint of turn on offer during the coming series, Shah has not yet played against South Africa, anywhere, in any of the three formats.

He does have some southern African know-how, having played five one-day internationals – he bagged figures of six for 26 at Harare in 2015 – plus two of the T20 variety in Zimbabwe.

Pakistan have reinstated dangerous left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir to their plans for the tour, although his own 33-Test career also includes no activity against the Proteas yet.

The 26-year-old was serving a five-year ban (he also had six months in jail in the UK) for involvement in a spot-fixing scandal when the countries last locked horns, either in South Africa or the UAE.

But Amir has played three ODIs on SA soil, even if all were against other foes (West Indies, New Zealand, India) during the 2009 Champions Trophy, the last time our country hosted a major ICC event.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing | Zondo, Van Wyk power Heat to Newlands win

Cape Town – Half-centuries by Morne van Wyk and man of the match Khaya Zondo helped the Durban Heat win only their second Mzansi Super League match of the season after they stunned the Cape Town Blitz by six wickets at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday.

Veteran Van Wyk struck a solid 56 (48 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) with Zondo clubbing a crisp 67 off 42 balls (4 fours, 3 sixes) as the bottom-placed visitors eased to a 162-run victory target with three balls to spare.

It was only a second win of the campaign for the KwaZulu-Natal outfit with their only other one coming in their second-round encounter with the Tshwane Spartans.

They remained rooted to the foot of the table, although the victory will go some way towards lifting the mood in the dressing room.

For the hosts, they found out before the first ball that they were assured of topping the table – and with it earning a home final – after the Jozi Stars were beaten by the Paarl Rocks.

But they will certainly be unhappy after ending their regular season with defeat, which came despite Quinton de Kock again starring via an unbeaten 86 (55 ball, 9 fours, 3 sixes).

The Proteas all-rounder led the way for his side after a top-order flop left them on 28 for three in the seventh over.

Asif Ali (18), Farhaan Behardien (17) and Mohammad Nawaz (23) did offer some support, with the Blitz ending on 161 for six.

Heinrich Klaasen with one for 12 was the most successful of the bowlers for the visitors.

Sarel Erwee (1) and Hashim Amla (16) were the early wickets to fall for the Heat, both to Nawaz (2/21), which left them on 39 for two.

But Van Wyk and Zondo combined nicely for a 79-run third wicket stand that took them to 118 for two, with David Miller (16 not out) helping them get over the line.

Scores in brief:

Cape Town Blitz 161/6 (De Kock 86*, Klaasen 1/12)

Durban Heat 162/4 in 19.3 balls (Zondo 67, Nawaz 2/21)

Heat win by 6 wickets. | New Zealand stun Blitzboks with 2 late tries

Cape Town – New Zealand beat the Blitzboks 26-21 in their final match of the day at the Cape Town Sevens on Saturday.

As it happened: Blitzboks 21-26 All Blacks Sevens

New Zealand led the Springbok Sevens 14-7 at half-time.

The All Blacks Sevens scored two tries in the final few seconds of the game to snatch what looked like an unlikely victory.

The Blitzboks led 21-14 with 20 seconds remaining but let in two tries to hand the Kiwis victory.

New Zealand, who earlier lost to Samoa, had to win the game to advance to the Cup quarter-finals.


South Africa

Tries: Rosko Specman, Werner Kok, Branco du Preez
Conversions: Justin Geduld (3)

New Zealand

Tries: Andrew Knewstubb, Sione Molia (2), Vilimoni Koroi
Conversions: Knewstubb (2), Koroi

Cup quarter-finals:

South Africa v Scotland

Fiji v Spain

Australia v New Zealand

USA v England | MSL: Proteas’ T20 pool is swelling

Cape Town – If variety is the spice of life, South Africa’s selectors look like having a broader stock of players to choose from soon for Twenty20 international purposes, courtesy of the Mzansi Super League.

A positive overspill into the other white-ball arena – one-day internationals – is also quite possible, even if the Proteas probably have more settled, clearly-identified resources at this point in the 50-overs game.

T20 internationals have limited gravitas – though they can put healthy numbers of bums on seats – whenever there is still some way to go to the next ICC World Twenty20 tournament (now to be called the ICC T20 World Cup and held roughly every two years).

The current period has been an exception, with a gap of four years between the last one, held in India in 2016, and the next due to be hosted by Australia in 2020.

But between now and the Aussie event, most international teams are going to gradually start taking their T20 plans more seriously.

That will very likely include the Proteas, who played a once-off T20 international at the tail-end of their successful white-ball tour Down Under recently and, not without justification, simply kept their ODI personnel there to complete the tour-closer on the Gold Coast.

Apart from the cost saving involved in not flying over additional troops simply for one less-than-heavyweight match, it also meant that the MSL wasn’t deprived of even more national-calibre players at the start of the maiden league – a situation that was never going to be ideal.

But the next few months will see the Proteas play all-formats home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively, including three T20 internationals in each instance, so expect the SA team to begin to look considerably more “specialist” for the shortest brand of the game.

Already some fresh faces have been blooded in early 2018/19, including batsmen Rassie van der Dussen and Gihahn Cloete, who made debuts against Zimbabwe; the former has made his mark by including a half-century in his two international innings thus far.

As the round-robin phase of the MSL draws toward a close, though, and inadvertently aided by the limited presence of overseas stars in its midst, the tournament is throwing up promising additional candidates for consideration down the line by Linda Zondi and his fellow national selectors.

This is reflected in the lists for leading run-scorers and wicket-takers at this point, featuring several names you would not automatically have branded credible options for SA selection at the outset of the MSL.

For example, running second to the sensational Reeza Hendricks – a reasonably established Proteas player – for most runs is the Cape Town Blitz’s 22-year-old Janneman Malan (279 at an average of a touch under 40).

The Nelspruit-born right-hander has been eye-openingly consistent throughout the MSL, his seven appearances seeing him contribute meaningfully just about every time; he has not registered less than 19 yet at the crease, and has a top score of 66 among his two half-tons.

But another previously unheralded 22-year-old lies seventh on the batting chart, Jozi Stars’ Ryan Rickelton – the former SA Schools left-hander – having accumulated 187 runs at 31, including a scorching 91 (strike rate 154 on what is not normally the quickest of surfaces) in only his second MSL exposure against Paarl Rocks at Boland Park.

On the bowling list, meanwhile, three emerging South African non-internationals occupy berths among the top six scalp-grabbers in the competition as things stand.

Enthusiastically touted by his captain AB de Villiers, Tshwane Spartans speedster Lutho Sipamla, a particularly callow 20, already boasts a trio of “three-fors” in his seven MSL outings giving him a total of 12 dismissals so far and second place for most wickets.

A new spin prospect is on the brew, too, with Paarl Rocks’ left-armer Bjorn Fortuin – a local product, which is always pleasing – showing some good control when asked to bowl often at the outset of opponents’ innings; he is joint-fourth with nine wickets.

Although his tournament was sadly cut very short by injury, the Blitz’s Anrich Nortje had shown a combination of real hostility and admirable discipline in three games, snaring eight wickets in his three outings.

The Eastern Cape man, 25, looks invitingly like a replacement for the great Dale Steyn when the Phalaborwa Express eventually chugs into the sunset …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing | Bid for Pacific Islands’ Super Rugby team rejected

2018-12-06 06:41

Wellington – An ambitious bid to set up a Pacific Islands Super Rugby team has failed after competition organisers decided it was not commercially viable, the Fiji Rugby Union said on Thursday.

READ: SANZAAR dismisses Super 14 talks as ‘speculative’

Including a Pacific team in the southern hemisphere competition was seen as a game-changer for rugby in the islands, a hotbed of talent where top players have long headed overseas to chase more lucrative opportunities.

Fiji rugby chief John O’Connor confirmed that a joint bid from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga was submitted in June to Super Rugby governing body SANZAAR, which is currently examining how the competition will be structured from 2021 to 2030.

He said SANZAAR had praised aspects of the bid but ultimately rejected it on commercial grounds, saying it could not deliver “commercial uplift in both broadcasting and guaranteed underwrite”.

“(This) would render the viability of a Pacific Super team under the proposed SANZAAR commercial model unsustainable,” O’Connor said in a statement.

The Fiji Rugby Union did not detail the costings outlined in the bid but the Pacific Rugby Players’ Association said it would have required a minimum annual investment of $12 million.

“The decision was made within the Pacific that financially it didn’t stack up,” association chief Aayden Clarke told Radio New Zealand.

“The losers in that, if they were to put all their eggs in that basket of having a (Super Rugby) franchise team, would probably be community rugby and club rugby.”

Rugby fans have floated the idea of a combined Pacific team for years but it has always floundered on economic grounds.

The remote islands lack the economic base to attract major sponsors, facilities are poor and the financially strapped rugby unions of all three nations have faced major governance issues in recent years.

In the meantime, their best players have left for New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

The Super Rugby competition currently has 15 teams playing in five nations that straddle numerous timezones, making salaries and accommodation expensive.

SANZAAR has struggled prevent the competition becoming bloated while also expanding into new markets, culling the number of teams from 18 to 15 for the 2018 season.

Further changes are afoot from 2021, with reports in Australia suggesting Japan’s underperforming Sunwolves could be the latest team to face the axe.

SANZAAR has refused to comment, saying no final decisions have been made. | Blitzboks to feed off Cape Town crowd’s energy

Cape Town – The Blitzboks will draw energy from the expected full house at the Cape Town Stadium when the second of ten HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments kicks off in Cape Town on Saturday.

Springbok Sevens captain, Philip Snyman, said they are keen to get going at the Cape Town Sevens this weekend, where they will meet Zimbabwe, Samoa and New Zealand in pool A on the opening day.

Snyman attended the official captains’ photo on Robben Island on Tuesday wearing the commemorative match jersey, which they will play in this weekend.

The special motif jersey serves as a tribute to late president Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday celebrations. Snyman said that would boost their motivation on the field.

“It was very emotional standing on Robben Island, wearing this special jersey,” said Snyman. “We all celebrate the role Madiba played as the Father of the Nation, and this jersey will add to our motivation. 

“Similarly to that which our late Mr Mandela envisaged, the Blitzboks are a team that want to inspire and give hope to people, and to use our abilities on the field to bring the nation together.” 

Snyman said that deep desire, combined with the need to improve on their efforts in Dubai last week, will drive them at the Cape Town Sevens.

“We want to play to our potential for ourselves and for everyone out there. That is a given,” he said.

 The expected sell-out crowd will also boost their energy levels, said the captain.

“We will be playing in front of 50 odd thousand people each day in the only weekend we get to play in our own country. That is massive for us. 

“More importantly though, is that we will also be playing with the support of 50 million people, and we are hoping to make all of them proud.” 

Snyman was confident that they would be able to make the necessary tweaks to improve on their sixth-place finish in Dubai.

“Coach Neil Powell has a plan or two up his sleeve and I think we will be very competitive this weekend,” said Snyman. “Running out there with the support of the country, wearing this special jersey will be a fantastic occasion. We can’t wait.” | Lessons learnt as Blitzboks shift focus to Cape Town

Cape Town – The Springbok Sevens team are not dwelling on what happened in the Arabian Desert in Dubai last weekend, according to Rosko Specman in the build-up to his final tournament for the Blitzboks in Cape Town this weekend before he shifts his focus to fifteens with the Bulls.

READ: Blitzboks ecstatic to wear jersey in honour of Madiba

“We did some good and bad things in Dubai, but that performance does not define us, neither will it dictate to us what we want to achieve in Cape Town this weekend,” said Specman, who will be playing in his third tournament at the Cape Town Sevens.

The Blitzbok flyer is adamant that the South Africans will be coming out with real intent and purpose, not only to prove to themselves that they are still world beaters, but also to the expected sell-out crowd at the Cape Town Stadium this weekend.

“Our focus will be on ourselves. We need to get the small things right and it starts with every player on his own.”

The winger, who scored three tries in Dubai last weekend, is not going to necessarily try and bow out in spectacular fashion

“My responsibilities are within the team and I know what my role entails,” said Specman.

“I know what I need to do inside the system and that is where my focus will be – to do my job.”

Another player keen to contribute is speedster Siviwe Soyizwapi.

“We are proud of the work we put in at training and how we perform at the tournament,” said Soyizwapi.

“Our performance in Dubai obviously was not what we stand for as a team. We will be looking at the positives though, as we are at home, playing in front of fans, family and friends.

“The tournament itself is also brilliant, with a great atmosphere, and we are keen to deliver a good performance.”

One of the highlights of the South African performance in Dubai was that of Muller du Plessis, who travelled to Dubai for the first time and scored six tries. He will also play for the Blitzboks in Cape Town for the first time.

“Yes, I am very excited about this weekend,” said Du Plessis, who matriculated in Paarl and still played for the SA Schools team last year.

“Dubai was good for me, I enjoyed it a lot and learned from the experience. Cape Town will be massive and I can’t wait.” | Du Plessis guides Paarl Rocks to victory over Durban Heat

Durban – A well-rounded performance from the Paarl Rocks saw them beat the Durban Heat by nine wickets in their Mzansi Super League clash at Boland Park on Sunday.

The Heat won the toss and elected to take first strike and the decision paid off with openers Morné van Wyk and Sarel Erwee starting positively.

The pair dominated the Rocks attack early and put on 65 for the first wicket before Erwee was bowled by Grant Thomson for 32.

Van Wyk was the next wicket to fall, LBW to spinner Tabraiz Shamsi for 33. At that stage the score as 81 in the tenth over.

The middle order fire power of the Heat didn’t materialise as the Rocks ripped through the heart of the batting line up.

Dave Miller was caught for one, Heinrich Klaasen fell for just four and Albie Morkel was caught by the wicket keeper for eight.

At 105 for five in the 16th over the Heat were under pressure to post a defendable total.

Khaya Zondo played a measured innings where he ended on 38 not out from 34 deliveries.

Vernon Philander supported Zondo well contributing 30 off just 16 deliveries to help the Heat to 154 for six.

In reply the Rocks were steady and after the early retirement of Henry Davids due to a leg injury, captain Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and Vaughn van Jaarsveld guided the home side to victory.

Markram put together a steady 48 off 38 balls before Zimbabwean Brandon Mavuta out-foxed him to have him stumped.

Unfortunately for the Heat the Rocks kept on ticking the scoreboard over and eventually got over the line in the 20th over.

Du Plessis ended on 76 not out while Van Jaarsveld was 28 not out.

Keshav Maharaj was the most economical of the Heat bowlers, finishing with no wicket for 24 runs in his four overs.

Mavuta was tidy with one for 32 in his four overs.

The Heat will welcome their international player Rashid Khan for their next clash with the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants at Kingsmead on Wednesday. | WANTED: New host for 2019 AFCON, SA to step in?

Accra – Cameroon was on Friday stripped of hosting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations due to delays in preparing for the continental showpiece, organisers the Confederation of African Football announced.

“Today we took the decision to withdraw the 2019 CAN from Cameroon,” CAF president Ahmad Ahmad told a press conference in Accra, seven months before the 2019 opening match.

He was speaking after a 10-hour CAF executive meeting held behind closed doors in the Ghanaian capital.

Ahmad said “a task force” would be set up to launch an appeal for offers “to determine a new organising country between now and the end of the year”.

South Africa and Morocco are two frontline contenders to step in as hosts for the event – expanded to 24 teams for the first time – in place of Cameroon, who won the last edition in 2017 in Gabon.

Morocco, who lost out to a United States/Mexico/Canada bid to host the 2026 World Cup, have regularly been reported as possible replacements.

The North Africans had been set to stage the 2015 Cup of Nations before being stripped of its hosting rights in a row over the Ebola outbreak.

South Africa is the only African country to stage a World Cup, in 2010, and last staged the Cup of Nations in 2013.

“I know that there are countries which are interested, rest assured, candidate countries will come forward,” said Ahmad.

“We know there won’t be many (new candidates) but we will leave the task force to evaluate them and to set up visits in order to select the organisers of the CAN by the end of the year”.

Alarm bells were sounded over the 2019 event at a September executive committee meeting in Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh when CAF noted “a significant delay in the realisation of the infrastructures” necessary for holding the Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

A report of the last two inspection visits to central African state Cameroon were made at Friday’s meeting.

CAF inspectors recently travelled to the country, which last hosted the tournament in 1972, to check security, infrastructure, stadiums and accommodation.

“After numerous discussions and following inspections over the past 18 months CAF has become aware that several conditions of conformity have not been met,” a CAF statement explained.

“There is a gap between what is necessary to organise a CAN and the reality on the ground,” the statement added.

CAF’s decision came as little surprise back in Cameroon.

“We knew what was going to happen, there’s no stadiums, no roads, there’s nothing,” Henri Kelma, a moto-taxi rider in Douala, told AFP.

For journalist Pierre Youte “it’s perhaps a good decision… like this Cameroon will have the time to learn and find the means to host a CAN worthy of the name”.

Cameroon is experiencing a tense security situation with persistent attacks by Boko Haram jihadists in the north and a conflict between the army and separatists in the two English-speaking regions.

That recalls the trauma that preceded the 2010 Cup of Nations in Angola, when the Togo team bus was attacked with three dead two days before the opening match.

Ahmad observed: “Football in Africa depends on our governments. But our priority is to look after the interests of our actors and above all our players.

“I don’t know whether there are statistics but many have been injured during CANs due to the condition of the organisation.”

The Cup of Nations is no stranger to dramatic subplots.

In 1995 Kenya withdrew as hosts, citing financial difficulties, with South Africa stepping in and going on to be crowned champions.

South Africa also took over holding the 2013 tournament after original hosts Libya had pulled out two years earlier because of the armed conflict then raging in the country.

Equatorial Guinea stepped in to the breach in 2015 when original hosts Morocco had appealed in vain for the competition to be delayed because of the Ebola epidemic.

Ahmad meanwhile appeared to hold out an olive branch to Cameroon.

“CAF is committed to supporting Cameroon, to give them time so that they can properly organise a CAN,” he told reporters.

He refused to be drawn on whether that meant Cameroon could replace Ivory Coast as hosts of the 2021 edition, or Guinea as organisers in 2023.

The 2019 event is scheduled for June 15-July 13, a change from its traditional January-February slot.

And it will be the first to feature 24 teams – up from 16 at the 2017 edition in Gabon.